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February 23, 2023

USDA funding will help Maine pig and berry farmers add jobs, expand output

blueberries and green leaves FILE PHOTO / LORI VALIGRA A berry farm in Caribou was one of two in Maine to receive a grant to expand processing, marketing and sales.

Circle B Farms LLC in Caribou and Singing Prairie Farms LLC in Newcastle will create new jobs and boost production after being awarded grants through the USDA's Rural Development value-added producer grant program.

The grant program helps farmers process and market new products to expand marketing opportunities and increase their income. The money goes to things like feed and fertilizer suppliers, haulers and harvesters and aims to grow food system economies, Hampson said.

“These value-added producer grants are more than one-off investments in rural Maine farms,” USDA Rural Development State Director Rhiannon Hampson said in a news release. “They are resonant; the dollars that we use to support Circle B Farms and Singing Pastures will circulate in rural Maine and uplift many small businesses.”

Circle B

Circle B Farms received two separate grants of $132,495 and $117,505. Both will be used to help expand the processing, marketing and sales of broccoli, blueberries, apples and other fruits and vegetables. The project will add 17 employees.

The farm, located in Caribou, was recently purchased by Tom and Gina Ayer in 2021 and offers a you-pick option and fresh and frozen products in grocery stores from Fort Kent to Portland. Open year-round, it also supplies a farm-to-school program, restaurants, local farm stands and hospitals. 

Currently, Circle B Farms LLC grows and harvests broccoli florets for Harvesting Good, a public benefit corporation wholly owned by Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine. The farm will grow an estimated 9 million pounds of broccoli to meet Harvesting Good’s three-year projections.

The farm dates back to the late 1980s, when the previous owners planted 700 highbush blueberry bushes were planted as a hobby. Now, a variety of fresh produce harvested from Circle B Farms is featured in 128 New England-based retailers and 68 New York locations. In addition, Circle B provides high-quality products to various schools, medical centers, and the Maine State Prison system.

Singing Prairie

Singing Prairie Farms, doing business as Singing Pastures, received a grant of $215,000 to expand the processing, marketing and sales of its pre-cut salami. The project adds three part-time employees.

Founded by ninth-generation farmers John and Holly Arbuckle, Singing Pastures practices regenerative agriculture to improve soil and ensure clean water, abundant wildlife and a greener planet. 

The approach responds to factory farming, which “creates problems for human health, animal welfare and the environment,” its website says.

“Up until World War II, almost all family farms were chemical-free,” according to the website. “Since then, pork production has changed from small, family farms to large, industrial confinement operations.”

Unlike corporate factory farms, Singing Prairie raises animals on green grass without growth stimulants, antibiotics and GMOs, and "mimic nature by moving them every few days.”


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